The owners and editors of El Nuevo Día — the largest circulation daily in Puerto Rico — came under fire for printing an anti-Semitic article by columnist Wilda Rodríguez Jan. 8 titled, “What Does the ‘Jew’ Want with the Colony?”
Rodríguez claims there is a “secret structure that rules the United States” and “a parallel government organized by the forces of wealth and violence (the war machine) from Wall Street.”
“Congress in the end will do whatever ‘the Jew’ wants, as the prototype of the real power is crudely called,” she says.
Jews “don’t see life like we do,” Rodríguez wrote. And their main concern is not collecting Puerto Rico’s $70 billion debt to bondholders, but to make sure that “the world of debtors understands that Wall Street can’t be manipulated” — as if the bondholders and Wall Street were all Jewish.
The editors responded to the criticism by running a “disclaimer” of sorts next to the article, which “asks for forgiveness from the Jewish community in Puerto Rico and the rest of our readers who feel offended.” Despite the clear anti-Semitic content of the article, they claimed that they don’t promote content “that can be interpreted as anti-Semitic.”
They also posted a comment from Rodríguez, saying that “the mere use of the word Jew” was not “intended to cause offense” but was “a contribution to the public discussion.” Public discussion of what, she doesn’t say.
Rodríguez is well-known as a supporter of independence for Puerto Rico.
But her scapegoating of Jews poisons the fight for independence and is a deadly danger to the working class. The problem with Washington is not the anti-Semitic charge that it’s run by a secret Jewish conspiracy, but capitalist rule and colonial domination. This is what’s behind the outrageous neglect and negligence by the colonial rulers in the wake of Hurricane Maria.
On Jan. 12 El Nuevo Día printed several letters denouncing the column. “It’s pure anti-Semitism,” wrote Diana Berezdivin. “Using the Jews as scapegoats once again, this time for the problems of Puerto Rico.”
The column “is an insult to all our people, including Puerto Ricans,” wrote Lina Goldberg.
El Nuevo Día also ran a guest column by Monica Bauer from the Anti-Defamation League in California that takes up the editor’s supposed “disclaimer.” What the editors published “leave a lot to be desired,” Bauer writes, “since publishing an article that accuses the Jewish people of controlling governments in detriment of the future of Puerto Rico is practically the definition of anti-Semitism.”
“This isn’t the first time that in the face of an economic crisis Jews are accused of controlling the power and money,” she adds.
It’s no accident that Rodríguez repackages Jew-hatred in the midst of the deepest economic and social crisis there since U.S. imperialism wrested control of Puerto Rico from Spain in 1898 and made it a U.S. colony.
The rulers push Jew-hatred when the crisis of their capitalist system deepens and working people begin to look for ways to fight for their own interests, opening the door to a revolutionary course of action to take power out of the hands of the capitalist rulers.
More and more working people in Puerto Rico today are coming to the conclusion that Puerto Rico is a colony of Washington and that U.S. corporations and bondholders are bleeding the island dry. There is widespread discussion and debate on what to do about it.
Jew-hatred attempts to divert workers into believing that the problem is a conspiracy of evil Jews who control the banks, media and government, to take workers’ eyes off the real enemy — the system of capitalist exploitation and imperialism. The capitalist rulers are a social class, not a religious cabal.
To swallow the Jew-hatred poison would be death for the fight for independent working-class political action and independence in Puerto Rico.